After a brief pause due to raging bushfires, Hayden McDonald has touched down in Esperance, WA, completing his circumnavigation of Australia.
On September 8th, 22-year-old Hayden set off on his 3-month, 15,000km journey. Due to his autism diagnosis, Hayden was refused a CASA medical, which directly impacted his plans to be a Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot. As a result, he founded Wings Without Barriers and planned to lap Australia. Hayden wanted to raise awareness of the capabilities of autistic and neurodiverse people, lobby for change and prove his doubters wrong.
Crossing every state in mainland Australia and the Northern Territory, Hayden stopped at more than 30 towns and cities along the way to speak to locals about the importance of autism acceptance, and to share stories of his flying adventures.
Touching down at Myrup Airfield (YMYU) on December 11th, Hayden completed what is thought to be the first solo circumnavigation of Australia by an autistic pilot. Over his journey, he logged more than 80 hours of flight time in his beloved Jabiru J120.
Forced to put his trip on hold thanks to smoke from bushfires in WA, Hayden was able to return to Kunanurra in late November to complete the WA leg of his tour. Hayden’s final landing was witnessed by his proud mother, and the tight-knit community at the Esperance AeroClub.
“Not only have I proven my capability as an autistic pilot, but most importantly, I have been welcomed into towns and communities across Australia, in my efforts to build greater acceptance and understanding of autism and neurodiversity.” Hayden said.
“This journey may now be over, but my passion and drive to promote true inclusionis not. I will continue to campaign loudly so that autism is not regarded as a medical issue.”
We here at SportPilot want to extend a huge congratulations to Hayden, not just for the flight but for his passion and drive for making positive change in the world. We can’t wait to see what he has in store for the future!